Yet as part of a new scheme to reinvigorate the town’s art scene local artist Nicola Hebson wants to not only introduce the town to her offbeat art but get them to take part in it too.
For the first time in the town’s history she is hosting a series of half day DIY taxidermy workshops amidst Victorian efforts in Blackburn Art Gallery and Museum this December.
But whilst Victorians had an obsession with shooting animals to turn them into trophies Nicola, who is a strict vegan, wants to prove that taxidermy can actually be an ethical celebration of their lives.
And she relies on her own road kill finds and donations from locals to do it.
Being vegetarian and with some free time on my hands I put my squeamishness to one side to find out what she meant.
A nurse, pest controller and mum and son were amongst the eight people I joined last Tuesday to learn the craft, all armed with clothes and props to help give our creations their own personalities.
Although the fact that the mice had been bought from a
pet shop seemed to contravene the ethics behind what we were about to do Nicola said that they were unsuitable to sell to pets and would have gone in the bin had she not bought them.
And here’s a quick biology fact of the day-as long as the animal’s been dead a while the amount of blood is minimal as the heart is no longer pumping it around the body. The only thing you really risk if you cut too deep is a pretty unpleasant dead animal smell.
We skinned the trickiest part, the head, last where we
carefully cut around the eye sockets to avoid creating a cyclops mouse.
Then we covered the skins in kitchen salt and left to one side whilst we got a cuppa and admired some of Nicola’s own work.
We shook off our nicely salted skins and gave them a bath
to remove any last pieces of grit before giving
them a quick blow dry.
Then we slid on the mouse skin and added some pipe cleaners to give its legs some more support, modelled its arms into its final position and added some beads for eyes.
A sword, hat and tabard helped me reincarnate my mouse as Mr Maurice the Mouseketeer.
Surprised that I’d stuffed the mouse without once feeling sick I realised it really isn’t as gory as everyone thinks.
If taxidermy gives an animal destined for the rubbish bin a second lease of ‘life’ then I’m happy to say I’m another non-meat eating convert.
Nicola’s classes will run from noon to 4pm on Tuesday 10 and 17 December and cost £45. For more information visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/nickytaxidermist